Do you often wish you were more assertive? Most of us have that feeling sometimes, especially if we’re feeling ‘put down’ by someone else.
First of all, let’s look at the definition of assertiveness – it involves standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly, honestly and openly in ways that are respectful of the rights of others. This means that an assertive person acts without undue anxiety or guilt.
Assertive people respect themselves and other people and take responsibility for their actions and choices. They also recognise their own needs and ask openly and directly for what they want. If refused, they may feel saddened, disappointed or inconvenienced, but their self-concept isn’t shattered.
They are not over-reliant on the approval of others, and feel secure and confident within themselves.
Assertive people give the lead to other people as to how they wish to be treated.
If someone is assertive, these are usually the messages that they communicate:
This is what I think
This is how I feel
This is how I see the situation. How about you?
If our needs conflict, I am certainly ready to explore our differences and I may be prepared to compromise
The subconscious thoughts are ‘I won’t allow you to take advantage of me and I won’t attack you for being who you are’.
In counselling and psychotherapy, the goal with assertiveness is to communicate clearly, adult to adult:
There are verbal and non-verbal parts to this and they are:
Firm, relaxed voice
Direct eye contact
Erect, balanced, open body stance
Voice appropriately loud for the situation
“I” statements (“I like”, “I want”, “I don’t like”)
Co-operative phrases (“What are your thoughts on this?”)
Emphatic statements of interest:
- I would like to……
- I understand…..
- I suggest…….
Expressing yourself by:
- Choosing the right time and place
- Making notes beforehand – this may help
- Being concise – do not allow yourself to nag or be sidetracked
- Taking responsibility by beginning with “I”
- Choosing your words – be careful not to insult, threaten or denigrate.
- Be honest and positive but tactful. Criticise actions rather than personality
The following spoil communication:
- Judging, blaming, criticising
- Excessive inappropriate questioning – using closed questions
- Interrupting, finishing sentences
- Dismissing the other person’s concerns
So, the pay-offs from being assertive are:
The more you stand up for yourself and act in a manner you respect, the higher your self-esteem.
Your chances of getting what you want out of life improve greatly when you let others know what you want and stand up for your own rights and needs.
Expressing yourself directly at the time of negative feelings means that resentment is not allowed to build up.
Being less preoccupied with self-consciousness and anxiety, and less driven by the needs of self-protection and control you can see, hear and love others more easily.
With practice you will gain confidence in being assertive and this can take much of the distress out of life.
However, as with most things, there may well be a price to pay for being assertive and these can be:
That friends, employers or colleagues may have benefited from your non-assertion and may sabotage your newly developed assertion.
You are reshaping your beliefs and re-examining values that have been closely held since childhood. This can be frightening.
There are no ‘tablets of stone’ to guarantee an elegant outcome of your efforts.
There is often pain involved in being assertive but don’t give up – in the end it will be worth it!